Does anyone else get a sinking feeling when reading women’s blogs? “Hope for Weary Women.” “Trusting in God When Life is Out of Control.” “Stop Stressing Over Being the Perfect Mom.” Women seem to be weary, anxious, lost, miserable. It all makes womanhood look like a wasteland of negative emotions, and I get nervous–when is this misery going to descend on me? After all, I’m a woman. Should I be bookmarking all this advice about anxiety, so I’m prepared for all these horrible issues women seem unable to avoid, and must cope with somehow?
I remember coming home from a women’s retreat once, desperately trying to shake off the comments I’d kept hearing about how much of a struggle a woman’s life really was. I’d been perfectly happy as a woman on the drive to the retreat, but on the way home I felt like there was a wall of negativity in my future that I’d have to run into someday. I’d end up lacking self-confidence, or overwhelmed by the day-to-day, or resentful at my husband, or weary of my kids… I’d never thought the future was so bleak. And of course the advice to find my joy in God and trust in him alone was true–but the overall message felt like: you’re going to be miserable, but your solution will be to cling to God through your misery. Which wasn’t as comforting as it could be.
In addition, what kind of Christian books are popular with women? Self-help books–Girl, Wash Your Face–you-have-a-problem-and-here’s-how-to-fix-it books. Maybe we have to take a step back from trying to plug every leak, from zeroing in on every possible female problem and writing book-length strategies for ‘solving’ them. Maybe not every dip in our self-confidence needs to be fretted over. Maybe some of life’s issues can just exist, can just breathe.
There’s just this veneer of ‘women have problems.’ This implication given by endlessly addressing negative emotions women have. From a distance, overall, the picture starts to look unappealing. Is it at all possible to talk about being a woman in a more positive way?
I’m not one for burying my head in the sand. I am actually against ignoring reality and pretending real problems don’t exist. And I do think part of my inability to relate to these depressing headlines is I don’t have a husband and half a dozen kids. I’d know more about being weary if I did! But on the other hand, it’s very difficult to convince those on the outside that being a Christian woman is so great if the only things that get blogged about are how to endure, how to hang onto hope, how to stay optimistic when you feel the opposite. I get that this is encouraging, but it makes the alternative appear impossible–a non-weary, non-anxious, non-depressed woman who talks about other topics because these negative states of aren’t constantly on the top of her mind.
This is why Proverbs 31 is so fascinating, and maybe why people hate this woman so much. She ‘laughs at days to come.’ She laughs. She’s clothed in strength. She’s productive. Now, we should remember that this passage is actually directed to men, describing the type of woman to look for, rather than the way it’s often used–as an ideal for women to compare themselves to and find themselves lacking. Maybe she’s less of an ideal than an inspiration. She could, in fact, be encouraging to women. Women can be strong and productive and filled with laughter. It’s possible. There is a reality of misery in this life. But that’s not the only vision of life that is possible.
To take another example, look at the Psalms. The Psalms are fascinating because of the deep emotions on display. They contradict any idea that the Christian life is only happy, happy, happy. And yet–some Psalms are happy. Some are confident, some are full of celebration. A female life is not any different than a male’s in this way. There is a positive side to highlight too.
I certainly do experience anxiety and depressed moods. I’ve stared into the future and seen a wasteland of hopeless. So yeah, it’s not fun, and it’s not a surprise people experiencing such rough times seek encouragement. I’m not really asking women to stop giving out this encouragement. I’m asking us to step back and look at the bigger picture. After all, one or two posts is not the problem, it’s the impression left by the blogsphere as a whole.
Overall, what is the big picture that is presented to women who daily absorb content targeted at women’s issues? Is there any vision of a positive material experience that is within reach for the average reader? Let’s consider that seriously.
So where are our female blog posts about laughing at days to come? Perhaps such posts would be disliked into oblivion (‘she must be lying about being happy’), or perhaps they go unrecognized by the algorithms. Perhaps thousands of such posts have been written and I haven’t seen them. Or perhaps it’s a function of the way our conversation tends to get divided–‘general Christian topics’ for both genders, and specific women topics for specific women’s problems. A potential solution might be to write about some of these general Christian topics from a woman’s perspective more often, just as a counterbalance to the negative view of womanhood that’s unintentionally presented to us otherwise. Or write more about the joys of life as a woman in general. And lastly, perhaps we don’t write about laughing at days to come, or examples of female strength, because we’re afraid of coming across as feminist. There could be a whole list of reasons or solutions to explore. Let’s start exploring them.